Cape Fear - A Predictable Catastrophe
Going into this film, I had very high expectations. Starring Robert DeNiro, Jessica Lange, and Nick Nolte, visions of intense sequences and perfected cinematic segments danced in my head. Much to my disappointment, I was instead met with awkward dialogue that was poorly recorded and a climax that was further over the top than a Michael Bay action shot. In summation, this film follows small-town lawyer Sam Bowden (Nolte), stalked by ex-con Max Cady (DeNiro) who served 14 years for rape due to Bowden's dereliction to acquire him a lesser sentence. Not surprisingly, Cady unleashes his wrath, liberating his pent up rage by threatening the Bowden family in addition to preying on Sam's teenage daughter and other significant women in Sam's life.
Minus some slightly uncomfortable dialect, I did enjoy the first half of the film. It kept me enthralled and built suspense similar to that of John Boorman's "Deliverance," which isn't necessarily a compliment, considering Boorman's masterpiece was released in 1971, whereas Scorsese's was in '91. Nonetheless, some of my personal favorites are 70's movies, however THOSE movies actually capitalized on the tension they built, while "Cape Fear" only fell short.
Many times, the film dragged me into its thickening plot, only to throw away what tension they'd built with unnecessarily graphic violence or ridiculous conflict successions that did not add to the plot or even remotely make sense. Furthermore, the production value of this film seemed to be particularly low, especially for a Scorsese film starring DeNiro, among other big-name stars, even though its budget was 10 million dollars higher than my personal favorite Scorsese: "Goodfellas." To further remove value from the film, the effects were horrid.
Colorful swirls and X-Ray camera filters dominated some of the intense scenes from the first half of the movie, taking away moments that could have been apprehensive or even frightening. These effects looked similar to those of Apple's built in "photo booth" app; cheap and easy to create. I do understand that this is a 90's movie, but in my opinion, that only strengthens my point. An experienced, accomplished director such as Scorsese should have been able to pinpoint what he could do affectively, special effects not included.
I will give credit to a deep depth of field used in the film to give it more of an indie feel, creating an unsettling, disturbing aura. Unfortunately, this aura was put to waste through violent scenes that surpassed the savagery of other Scorsese films such as “Goodfellas,” a feat I did not consider to be possible. Something I very much appreciate about most Scorsese films has repeatedly been his ability to highlight the sadistic nature of the world's criminals, however he went overboard in "Cape Fear."
There comes a point that even the heaviest of crime-drama fans cannot bear to watch. I hadn't experienced that until I saw this film. Now that I have bashed it enough, I will end on a good note from this movie. DeNiro was brilliant, as always. A perfect embodiment of the southern rapist that his character was, DeNiro depicted an interestingly mixed character that was filled with ruthlessness, maniacal tendencies, and surprising charm. While Jessica Lange played the same, tedious character she perpetually plays, DeNiro again knocked his role out of the park. Final decision: 4/10.